|Ft. Souville Shelter Shown in 1920 Postcard|
Contributed by Christina Holstein
One of the lesser known sites at Verdun is Fort Souville, which stands in the heart of the battlefield and less than one kilometer from the Fleury Memorial Museum. One of the first forts to be built at Verdun after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Fort Souville was originally built of stone and protected by the traditional ditch and drawbridge, although later modernization added a number of strong underground shelters and a retractable gun turret for two 155mm guns.
|Same Location as Above, 2008|
The fort stands on a high ridge, and in 1916 the views — now unfortunately blocked by forest — stretched for miles in all directions. This made Souville a vital part of the Verdun defensive system, and it became even more important once Forts Douaumont and Vaux had fallen into German hands. Throughout the battle, Souville offered command and medical facilities, shelter and rest to troops going into the French front line.
Wartime Entrance to Barracks and Fort
Afterward, it was estimated that between April and June 1916 the fort had been hit by 38,000 shells of all calibres, and although the parts above ground were largely destroyed, the underground shelters remained habitable throughout.
|Post-1916 Pamard Dual-Machine Gun Turret|
Author Christina Holstein on Right, Your Editor (Decapitated in Yellow Slicker), Top
The ridge to the south of the fort was the site of a number of important batteries and observation posts, as well as a unique 155mm gun turret. These have recently been cleared, and information about the various positions has been provided in three languages. A visit to this ridge is well worthwhile but visitors should stay out of the remaining parts of Fort Souville, which are all very dangerous. To reach the ridge, follow the path sign posted Massif fortifié de Souville, which leaves the D112 between the wounded lion monument and the Maginot memorial.
Steve Miller and Christina Holstein Photographs